Love it or hate it, the Ben & Jerry’s x Nike SB Dunk Low “Chunky Dunky” is this month’s most talked about release. If collaborations with Virgil Abloh and Travis Scott didn’t already underline the hype attached to Nike SB releases nowadays, the fact that everybody is going nuts for an ice cream-themed sneaker certainly does.
Ahead of its May 23 release date, we’ve tapped three OG sneaker collectors to give us their thoughts on the shoe’s design and the collaboration as a whole.
First up is former professional skateboarder Jimmy Gorecki, whose skateboarding resumé alone makes him the ultimate authority on skate shoes. Aside from being an original member of Pharrell’s Ice Cream skate team, Gorecki started his own sweatpants brand, JSP and has a collaboration with Reebok under his belt.
Joining Gorecki are Dennis Todisco and Russ Bengtson, both of whom have been around the sneaker and streetwear scene for what seems like ages. Todisco founded Outfitgrid and has worked for the likes of Diamond Supply Co. and Nike in digital marketing — so he knows what makes or breaks a good collab. Bengtson is best known for his steady hand on the keyboard — having written for Complex, GQ, and SLAM to name a few — and has encyclopedic knowledge of all things sneakers.
Highsnobiety's Style Director Jake Woolf caught up with the trio via Zoom to discuss the “Chunky Dunky” Dunk Low and their thoughts on Nike SB’s revival. Check it out below.
I'm really glad that we got all three of you who are obviously big experts in this Dunk world. To start off, what was the first wave of Dunk culture about to you guys?
Russ Bengtson: I was a little young, in '85 when they came out, but I think in '85 it wasn't really much of a thing. Air Jordan just eclipsed it, and Dunks were a legit college thing. The first time I super started getting into them was when they first re-released a bunch of the highs in '99. I remember going out and buying the Syracuse ones and the Kentucky ones and swapping the laces and putting the blue laces in the Syracuses and the orange laces in the Kentuckys just to do some makeshift Met style things.
Once SB hit, I was in on that from the ground floor. Not quite Ben Baller levels, I was buying one pair a piece, not trying to buy out the whole shop, but I bought most of that first set at Supreme.
What does Dunk culture mean to overall sneaker culture in general? How integral is it?
Russ: I think it got people into sneakers who might not have otherwise been into sneakers, and it got people into skate who might not have otherwise been into skate. I think both sneaker and skateboard culture have a history of being a little exclusionary. I think Dunks helped break some of that down and open things up a little bit to people who were just casually into it.
Jimmy Gorecki: Bam [Margera] lived really close to me, so we would skate a lot in the same spots and he skated for Nike. Bam was "hip hoppy" back then — early CKY — and I would show up to the skate spots and parks, and this guy would be skating in gold '97s and silver '97s, and really off-brand skate shit. If you knew a little bit about sneakers, you're like, "Damn, this is pretty cool."
Then, I worked at UBIQ when they opened their very first store in The Gallery in Philly, and they were bringing in a lot of stuff from Asia and Japan. It wasn't strange to see Dill come in looking for some crazy Dunks, and then just people from New York and DC and Virginia and stuff coming all the way to Philly.
Dennis Todisco: My introduction to Dunks was probably a little bit later than Russ and maybe Jimmy's. I came up more in the pink box era. Honestly at that time, Air Force 1s were so hot and Dunks felt like the off-brand Air Force 1. If you couldn't get the exclusive Air Force 1, you were getting the Dunks. I think — as Jimmy and Russ were saying — it was really hard to get SBs but at least back then, there wasn't any online. You had to be cool with the skate shops. As someone who wasn't a skater, I had to find authentic ways to be cool with these local skate shops or be cool with skaters in Boston to get my hands on things.
What do you think is fueling the resurgence of the Nike Dunk?
Jimmy: I don't want to sound like a complete hater, but I think it's funny. There's been fucking a million swings and misses from every side of the SB program. This is like, "Oh shit. This thing that was so big, that built the foundation for us, is really cool again." They had to jump back on it, and they jumped head first back into that pool. [Travis Scott], he's obviously the biggest rap artist, pop artist, in the world, but to just hand the keys of the castle over the way that they did — it’s cringy.
Russ: I think it was a big piece of who wore them, but I think also it's a case of all that old stuff still being so accessible. Over the past few years, once Stadium Goods got in and StockX started — once it all connected to the internet, all of that stuff became readily available. It's just a matter of how much money you have. People are just starting to cash in on it.
Dennis: Yeah. I agree. I mean it's very crazy just going on Stock X and seeing the prices of things. I mean Kylie wore the Ferris Bueller Dunks, and now they're over $1000. What? To me, those aren't grails. Just seeing all the recent sales and certain artists and rappers and celebrities are clearly buying these things. Two years ago you could have bought any SB you want for under $500, minus a couple obviously, but virtually any SB you wanted.
Do you think people are willing to pay that much because Nike SB is so connected to early sneaker culture? As a way to buy credibility?
Dennis: I think so. I think Corgishoe said it once, buying shoes, isn't a talent. You just need to have a lot of money. I think where it gets interesting is the curation and what you're actually picking. I think a lot of people that have been doing this for a long time look at it a little bit differently when they see people just throwing money at it and not actually understand what they're buying.
Jimmy: The thing that crushes me the most with how they've attached the brand to pop culture nowadays, particularly the product, is I feel like there was a certain obligation that they failed to fulfill to the original team riders. Before Travis Scott gets a shoe or anyone else — and I don't want to sound like I'm like picking on Travis Scott — I just feel there were other guys that created how unique and special this program was.
Russ: Maybe that should be the test if you're going to buy something new. You can pay a box price if you can name the original SB team.
Jimmy: You utilized those guys to create this foundation. Let's really pay respect to that before we're just, "You're fucking Ferris Bueller. Drive the car all you want." When you think about some of those co-branded stuff Nike SB did back in the day, it was so unique, and it was very strategic. That was so cool because you really had to research. If you didn't know Futura — if you didn't know the music it was connected to — you really had to do some digging, and that's what made those collaborative things just so special.
Russ: Back then, it was all guerrilla style, too. "We're just going to pay homage to this and rip it off and keep it just close enough that we can't get sued over it." For a huge company like Nike, SB operated like an independent skate brand, which was what made them cool.
Dennis: SB was exactly that rough, so it was definitely almost like this rebellious petri dish to test out things for Nike and see how far they could push it. I think it's just we're coming from the old man’s perspective. We've been in the game for a while and for the 13-year-old kid right now, Travis Scott is rebellious. Travis Scott is this person that's standing on a monster truck, and kids love that.
So, moving into the Nike SB of now. What do you think of the “Chunky Dunky” collaboration?
Russ: They lost me with that one. My first thought is, "Is that a Woody from Toy Story Dunk?" Honestly, the 7 Eleven one was cooler to me. 7 Eleven made sense. Ben and Jerry's, I don't know. I feel like the old Nike SB and the early 2000s would have ripped off their logo and done something with it and not told them about it and tried to skate with it. The collaboration thing, I don't understand.
Dennis: Well, I grew up in Boston, and I vacation a lot to Vermont. I would go to Stowe and go to the Ben and Jerry's headquarters and do those tours. I'm a big fan of Ben and Jerry's the brand. I'm obviously a big fan of Nike, having worked there, so I have mixed feelings. I love the shoe from a collectible standpoint. I want a pair just to own because I love Ben and Jerry's. Would I actually wear them? I don't know. It's probably too crazy for me to actually wear those.
Jimmy: So I think, looking at the positives, connecting that to that work, if there's any, but I don't know if that's part of the dialogue with the shoe, but I think that's really rad. It is a wacky shoe.
How would you say these perform?
Jimmy: That thing is going to rip through. But the Dunks never really held up too well. You'll probably get three or four good days of skating out of it, and then you can post it for sneaker heads to be like, “Uhh...”
Would you guys wear them?
Jimmy: I could wear them all day. I'll talk shit about them all day, but I'll totally run out the house in them. You’ve got to just wear a tonal sweatsuit and then just do the whole like, "Oh, this is nothing," type thing.
Russ: Probably the same way I wear virtually everything else — just jeans and a T-shirt, nothing special. And I would not be rushing to take a picture in the ice cream aisle with the pint next to me.
Dennis: Probably in an all black or all white fit, just something clean and simple. Let the shoes talk for themselves. I could see shorts and I could see a tie-dyed shirt. My whole thing with these is you got lean in to the skid. You're already out of pocket wearing these, so you might as well just lean in and go, "I have a tie-dye hoodie, too."
Last question, do you guys have a favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor?
Jimmy: I'll get stoned and eat so many pints of The Tonight Dough. That's an issue for me.
Dennis: Yeah, that's really good. I'm between Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey.
Russ: I got to admit I haven't messed with Ben and Jerry's in a long time. I don't even remember what their flavors are. I would literally have to use a cheat sheet.
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